VALLE, Ariz. - Though test results have not been made public yet, for a site in Valle found to have radioactive soil, early reports indicate that some uranium ore on the Valle site tested as high as 300. Overall readings, for the majority of fill material on the site, tested in the 20s, officials said. The high reading came from samples of ore, said to be the size of "tennis balls," found on top of one of the dirt piles.
Ten piles were removed from the ground at the site, near the Valle Hardware Feed and Supply store, and stored in large metal containers in early August. The containers will remain in Valle until authorities can determine where to move the material pending random test results by the Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency (ARRA).
Peter Soeth, spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) said the uranium ore found in the Valle site did not indicate the radiation levels of all the fill material.
"Those were up to 300, but the average reading for everything else is a 20," Soeth said. "This material was determined to be clean material. It was scanned before it was disturbed, found to be clean and given to these people," he added.
Soeth said uranium is common throughout the southwest.
"It's what they call a naturally occurring radiation material," Soeth said.
The fill material originally came from an area near the Orphan uranium mine, located within the Grand Canyon National Park, as a result of roadway construction. The Valle fill material, which had been cleared for sale, was to be used for a new parking lot at the hardware store in Valle. Other locations were also found to have acquired fill material from the Orphan Mine, including one located near the South Rim. The soil there was also subsequently removed from the ground, as was soil from a third northern Arizona business.
"That's all removed," Soeth said. "One was at the UMC (Universal Mechanical Company), Valle Hardware, 10 loads were taken to that spot, and the other was at one spot where the fill material was used along a fence line at the South Rim Trailer Park."
Members of the BOR, ARRA, the National Park Service and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality are currently conducting an investigation into the matter.
Soeth, meanwhile, said the storage containers should be removed from the Valle site soon.
"We're hoping to have all the bins removed by the end of the month," he said.